Friday, February 23, 2024

Iheanacho, Castagne hand Leicester survival lifeline

Kelechi Iheanacho and Timothy Castagne handed Leicester a survival lifeline after a vital 2-1 comeback win over Wolves at the weekend.

Following their first victory in 10 games played in the top level, the Foxes moved out of the Premier League’s bottom three on goal differential.

In Dean Smith’s first home game as the Foxes’ manager since taking over for Brendan Rodgers, Kelechi Iheanacho’s penalty negated Matheus Cunha’s opening goal.

Wolves’ loss prevented them from securing a victory that would have put them in a position to survive and left them with more work to do despite being six points above the bottom three.

Smith had thrown caution to the wind after James Maddison was sidelined due to sickness and replaced him with Tete, Iheanacho, and Patson Daka, who would move forward with Jamie Vardy.

Vardy turned back the years in less than three minutes, proving Smith’s unwavering belief that the striker could restore some previous greatness, however temporary, to save Leicester.

Vardy sped past Craig Dawson to cross for Tete after Iheanacho let him through because the new manager believed the 36-year-old could still trust his legs, but Toti Gomes stopped him.

Even yet, the hosts shot themselves in the foot when Youri Tielemans handed Wolves the lead in the 13th minute.

When he received Wout Faes’ pass from 30 yards out, there was minimal danger, but Mario Lemina immediately pursued the midfielder with the help of a hard touch.

The ball ran to Cunha, who advanced and from the edge of the box drilled a precise finish low past Daniel Iversen.

It shook Leicester; their initial zip vanished, and the Foxes began to creak in the back, their defensive frailty becoming all too apparent.

Pablo Sarabia’s shot was stopped by Faes, and Dawson’s follow-up shot was deflected wide as Matheus Nunes started to take control of midfield.

So it came as a surprise when the home team scored eight minutes before halftime. Vardy skipped by Jose Sa when Iheanacho broke through, but the goalkeeper slipped and fell on him.

Vardy played in his trademark style, but the forward required medical attention after Sa grabbed him on the ankle. He was off the field as Iheanacho converted the penalty.

The Foxes were eager to seize the opportunity, as Sa spilled Tete’s shot and stopped Daka’s follow-up before halftime.

At halftime, Vardy was replaced by Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, who squandered a good opportunity. After Sa denied Daka, he blazed over 11 minutes into the second half.

Wolves had lost their impetus and needed Sa to stop Caglar Soyuncu once more as Leicester searched for a crucial victory. That eventually materialized with 14 minutes left following a savage move that sent the Wolves scurrying for cover.

Victor Kristiansen was moving forward when Boubakary Soumare switched passes with Daka and threaded a beautiful ball to him. His initial cross was intercepted by Castagne, who was closing in and swept in from 12 yards for his first goal since August.

Ruben Neves’ final free kick still needed to be intercepted by Iversen for the Foxes to have any chance.

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